Bird Lady Blog

June 16, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

Steller’s Jay courtesy of Gordon Karre

May has been a month of transition for all of us:  spring cleaning, raking fallen pine needles, putting away our winter clothes and bringing out the summer wardrobe, and moving up to Munds Park if we were away for the fall and winter.  Our Munds Park birds are making similar transitions:  changing their drab winter feathers to bright colors so they can attract a satisfactory mate, building nests, and finding the best sources for food.  Two Munds Park birds that come to mind with striking colors are the Black-Headed Grosbeaks and the Lesser Goldfinches.  The males of these species are especially beautiful with their contrasting colors of orange or yellow against black and white.

So what should you be doing in preparation for migration and nesting?  First, if you have a nest box, open it up and clean it out.  Discard the old nesting material, shoo out the spiders that may have taken temporary residence, and wash or scrape out any residue.  Make sure your next box is still firmly secured to its post or tree.

Second, if you attracting birds by putting out feeders, make sure they also are cleaned.  You can wash them in a solution of water and a small amount of bleach – don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly.  The same goes for your bird baths.  Keep the water fresh.  If you hang a hummingbird feeder, remember the following:  the nectar should be made out of white granular sugar and water  – one part sugar to four parts water.  Do not use red food coloring.  The color of your feeder will be enough to attract the birds, and they will be back as long as you keep a fresh mixture.  If the mixture starts turning cloudy, discard it immediately and replace.

Lastly, start thinking about how you can protect your birds from window-kills – that is, preventing birds from flying into those wonderful windows we appreciate because of the forest and mountain views, but which can be deadly to our flying friends.  I will have more information about what you can do to prevent window crashes in a future article but would also like to hear what practical solutions are working for you.

For those of you who are relatively new to our Munds Park birds, here is a short list of the common birds you will see in our area:  Lesser Goldfinch, Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Western Bluebird, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Band-Tailed Pigeon, American Crow, Turkey Vulture, and Common Raven.  And some of the harder-to-find ones will be Summer Western Tanager, Painted Redstart, Red Crossbill, and House Wren.


August 4, 2010

Painted Redstart and Red-shafted Flicker

Filed under: Munds Park Birding,Redstart and Flicker — Munds Park Birding @ 3:02 am

It is now almost the middle of August, and we are truly enjoying the wonderful warm, breezy, and sometimes unpredictable and stormy weather of Munds Park summers.  The baby American Coots found in our ponds have grown from five inch black balls of fuzz to gray-feathered adolescents still following around their parents and begging for food, but also learning how to fend for themselves.  I saw a juvenile White-breasted Nuthatch following its parent around with a half-open mouth, still hoping to be fed a meal and looking somewhat tentative as it clung head-down on a Ponderosa Pine.  And I had reports of Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows fledging from their nest boxes.  In fact, Pat and Roy Heidemann again this season had a pair of nesting Tree Swallows in their front yard nest box, not too far from Lake Odell.  This nest box was built specifically for smaller birds like Mountain Chickadees, but somehow the Tree Swallows have managed to squeeze in and out of that one and one-eighth inch entry hole.  One evening while sitting on the Heidemann’s deck, we watched a newly fledged youngster learning how to fly and trying to get back into the nest box.  He/she hadn’t quite figured out how to land on the outside of the box at the entry hole and get back in.  Probably a good thing, because now the youngster should be up and about while its parents teach it how to catch insects on its own before they all head south for the winter.

About four weeks prior to this article being published, I had a “lifer” in our back yard forest.  A Painted Redstart – a beautiful, showy warbler – spent the weekend between our neighbor’s property and ours.  A “lifer” is defined in the birding world as a bird that is seen or heard for the first time by a person.  Many birders remember exactly when and where they saw a bird the first time and, like me, record the date and location in some type of list.  That could be a “life list” (all birds included) in a book or on a computer, or in a list of birds seen over a period of time (e.g., this year) or at a particular location, such as their home or office.  Yes, in addition to my life list I have kept two different lists at office locations for “Birds I’ve Seen While Working”.  We birders can be sort of “nutsy” at times I guess, but I would like to think that judgment really is all in the eyes of the beholder.

But back to the Painted Redstart.  This bird is only found regularly in Arizona and New Mexico at elevations of 5,000 to 8,000 feet.  My neighbor’s friend first shouted across our decks to me that “I think I saw one of those Painted Redstarts”, and I thought, “Oh, really?  Now that would be something!”  Lo and behold, a half hour later the Painted Redstart showed up at my bird bath, and for the rest of the weekend it flitted through the trees right in front of us in search of food.  We have been in Munds Park for 11 summers, and this is the first sighting I’ve had of the Painted Redstart, so I was telling everyone I know about the good news.  If you have a chance, look this bird up in your field guide or search for it on the internet.  It is glossy black with distinctive white wing bars you cannot miss, and it has a red belly.  When it forages among the trees, it spreads its showy white outer tail feathers to flush insects, making it easy to follow once located.   Like the Red-faced Warbler, the Painted Redstart makes its nest on the ground.

A bird that I have seen many times across the country but never get tired of is the Northern Flicker, and in the case of Munds Park, it is a Red-shafted Flicker.  The Northern Flicker is a large, brown woodpecker, and when it flies, it flashes its bright colors under its wings and tail and shows a distinctive white rump.  The Yellow-shafted Flicker is found in the Midwest and Eastern US, while the Red-shafted Flicker is common in the West, although hybrids regularly occur in their range overlap.  I have heard these birds throughout Munds Park and on the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course, often around holes 12 and 13 – closest to the west side of Lake Odell.  Listen for a single, high-pitched, strong “”keew” sound. 

The Red-shafted Flicker, like many birds, appears often in Native American lore, in part because of its strong drumming and its partial red coloring, which is associated with sun, weather, war, and the red dawn.

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